Turkey will set up a safe zone 30 kilometers deep into northeastern Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said, a move suggested by President Donald Trump, adding that the two sides’ teams will continue to discuss the technical aspects of the proposed measure along the Syrian border, the Hürriyet Daily News reported.
“Mr. Trump once again confirmed his decision to withdraw from Syria. He also spoke about a security zone more than 30 kilometers deep inside [Syria], which would be set up by us, an issue that I had raised during the Obama administration,” Erdoğan said during his weekly address to his party’s parliamentary group on Tuesday in Ankara.
Erdoğan expressed hope that he had reached an understanding of historic importance with Trump during a phone conversation late Monday, following the American president’s threat on Twitter that the US would “devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds.”
“This tweet has saddened us. Why? Because we are strategic partners. We may have different positions on some issues, but we should be locked on the same objectives,” Erdoğan said.
Turkey and the US are at odds over remarks from Washington that the Turkish government should give assurances that it would not attack the People’s Protection Units (YPG) after the withdrawal of American troops. Trump, in his tweet, revisited the idea of setting up a security zone inside Syria in order to address Turkey’s security concerns without giving any details on its modalities.
Erdoğan said that in order to be able to talk about a security zone, the enclave must be cleared of the Kurdish YPG, which the Turkish government sees as an extension of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
“Can the YPG take part in such a project? They are terrorists. Can we leave this area to the terrorists? For us, there is no difference between [Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant] and the YPG,” he said.
Erdoğan said detailed talks were needed between the two countries to define what logistics would be provided by the US or other coalition partners not only for securing the area but also for reconstructing the area for the return of Syrian refugees.
“We can be involved in this with our TOKİ [Turkey’s urban development agency]. But if financial support will be provided by our coalition partners, we can establish this secure zone and provide security for all these people. This would also stop migration,” he stated.
Some media reports also suggests that Ankara has been planning to relocate Syrian refugees living in Turkey to the safe zone.